NUS marine scientist launches new book on giant clams

Dr Neo Mei Lin, senior research fellow from the NUS Tropical Marine Science Institute, has published a new book entitled A Field Guide to Giant Clams of The Indo-Pacific. The book highlights the ecological, cultural and socio-economic significance of these endangered marine bivalves, which can grow up to 1.5m in length and weigh almost 300kg.

Giant clams are an integral part of tropical marine ecosystems; they are a source of food and shelter for other marine animals like fish and crabs, and can filter water by removing larger particles and excess nutrients. Although they can be found in tropical coral reefs along Singapore's southern shores and islands, including Sisters' Islands, Pulau Hantu and Raffles Lighthouse, their numbers have been declining.

The book highlights various methods used by scientists to conserve giant clams and preserve their natural habitats. It documents how giant clams have been bred in hatcheries and successfully transplanted, or 'restocked', in the wild.

The book also makes the case for conservation approaches to consider the ecological roles performed by marine organisms. Dr Neo's research, for example, highlights how the different traits of the giant clam – such as its shell length, growth rate, or other anatomical traits – can contribute to an ecosystem.

“A functionally diverse community would consist of species with highly unique traits that contribute numerous ecological roles. For instance, if there are 100 species in a community, but 50 per cent to 60 per cent of them play similar functions, then it does not mean that the area is more functionally diverse,” she said in an interview with The Straits Times.

“The number of species in a community matters less if the individuals are all functionally unique, so much so that they can contribute more critical ecological functions.”

Read more about her book here.